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By NWV News writer Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
April 18, 2010

During his confirmation hearing, Navy Vice Admiral James "Sandy" Winnefeld Jr. told a Senate committee on April 15 that if confirmed to head U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, he will work to build and maintain the command's relationships he called critical to the mission. Those relationships include the militaries of Canada and Mexico.

"I've observed that there are no other combatant commands where support for their partners [is] more important than these two," Winnefeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "My assignments have prepared me for this task."

Winnefeld, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the commands, is a Navy fighter pilot and former commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet, USS Cleveland and USS Enterprise. He led the Enterprise through combat operations supporting operations in Afghanistan immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Currently, he serves as a senior member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Military Staff Committee and as the director of strategic plans and policy on the Joint Staff.

The admiral said he would work to maintain the commands' strong working relationships with other U.S. federal agencies, Canada and Mexico. He also singled out the U.S. reserve components.

"Our nation's Guard and reserve have never been better, and I look forward to a strong personal relationship with them," he said.

But not everyone is enthusiastic with Admiral Winnefeld's plans regarding military "cooperation" between the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

"There is absolutely no need to the U.S. military to operate within U.S. borders. We have law enforcement agencies and state-run National Guard units available for any and all emergencies," said political strategist Mike Baker.

"While we're sending National Guard members overseas to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan we're using regular Army and Marines here in the states? Something's wrong with that logic," he said.
Winnefeld said Northcom's continued support along the U.S.-Mexico border would be one of his first priorities if the Senate confirms him for the post.

"I've been watching very closely, and, if confirmed, I will really burrow into it," he said to Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had asked him about support for Mexico in battling drug cartels. "I would welcome accompanying you down there. I very much want to get down there myself and see what's going on."

Winnefeld said he is concerned that the cartels, which are accused of 6,500 murders in Mexico last year and 2,000 so far this year, are threatening the Mexican government and U.S. national security, and that he agrees with U.S. support to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's government, which he said has exhibited "extremely good leadership and courage."

"It's a tremendous sign of our partnership with Mexico," he added, "and I'm honored to have the ability to work with them."

However, Winnefeld didn't elaborate on how the U.S. military would aid in fighting drug cartels or curtailing illegal alien penetration of U.S. borders.

Meanwhile, North American Aerospace Defense Command conducted a one-day exercise, Falcon Virgo 10-07 in the skies over the Washington, D.C. area on April 16.

The exercise had been carefully planned to ensure NORAD's rapid response capability. NORAD has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout the U.S. and Canada since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command's response to the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.


However, not everyone is happy about this latest military development coming so close to the transition from the Bush White House to the Obama Administration. Some observers believe this plan is part of a deal between President Obama and the current Secretary of Defense who will remained in his current position even after the Bush-Obama transition.

"While Obama and his team are making it sound as if they will use the military in a non-combative roll, part of the training being conducted is in urban warfare," claims political strategist Mike Baker.

"Obama appears oblivious to Posse Comitatus and to the US Constitution when it comes to using the military against civilians within US borders," he added.

The division will conduct the mission for a year, rotating its six divisions through escalating readiness levels, explained Army Col. Roger Cloutier, who commands the 1st Brigade "Raiders."
After that, the mission will pass to other Army brigade combat teams, Pentagon officials told reporters and bloggers.

If first responders found themselves short of manpower or equipment in a disaster, they could tap into the team through US Northern Command and Joint Task Force Civil Support.

About 200 of Cloutier's soldiers came this week to learn the ropes in a realistic setting from the experts: the Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force. The Marines stood up the unit in 1996 in response to a subway sarin gas attack in Tokyo. Today, it remains the only active-duty element that trains daily in CBRNE consequence management.

The training realism began before the soldiers ever reached the Indian Head facility. They received a no-notice alert at 4:30 a.m. Dec. 8 and deployed just over 24 hours later from Hunter Army Airfield with four aircraft, about 15 vehicles and other equipment and gear.

Exercises at The Marines' Raymond M. Downey Sr. Responder Training Facility gave the soldiers insight into the conditions and challenges they likely would face if called to help rescue victims and provide temporary life support during a disaster.

"This is as realistic as I imagine it can get," said Army Lt. Col. Joel Hamilton as two of his soldiers burst from a smoke-filled building carrying the mannequin they had searched through the dark to locate. "My soldiers are being stressed with some very realistic scenarios."

Hamilton, who commands the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, looked on as the soldiers navigated under and through "collapsed" structures and walls and felt their way through dark, smoke-filled buildings and confined spaces to search for survivors.

Working in buddy teams, they inched through spaces as tight as two feet by two feet, wearing blacked-out gas masks that offered zero visibility. They yelled directions to the man behind them, their voices rising over rap music the Marines had cranked up to further confuse the situation.


As the soldiers moved, each maintained at least three points of contact on the floors and walls at all times to keep from getting disoriented. "This is all by feel and communication," Hamilton said.

At another station, the soldiers practiced the techniques to lift seemingly unmovable 17,000-pound concrete beams to reach people trapped beneath. Meanwhile, other soldiers tried their hand at using the "jaws of life" and other equipment to free passengers "trapped" in their vehicles.

The Marines focused on their own safety throughout the training, emphasizing how quickly first responders can become victims themselves. "We don't want to be the rescuers who need rescuing," said Staff Sgt. Ray Johnstone, an M109 Palladin crew chief.

"It's all about teamwork," he said. "Teamwork is what gets the job done safely and effectively. And it's what we're doing here."

While military experts are excited about this use of soldiers within the borders of the United States, many police commanders and officers are less enthusiastic.

"I cannot understand why the federal government is so intent on using such military force within our borders. It reminds me of the Branch Davidian massacre in Waco, Texas when the feds used excessive deadly force against men, women and children. And they used that deadly physical force based on false information," warns former NYPD detective and US Marine Sid Francis.

"While I've served in the military and continue as a reservist, as a [New Jersey] cop I'm troubled about the use of federal troops coming into our communities during any emergencies," said Detective Lieutenant Stephan Rodgers

The Pentagon credited teamwork the brigade built during 15 months in Iraq's Anbar province with giving its soldiers a leg up on their new mission. Junior leaders developed critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and soldiers learned how to interact with other coalition forces as well as Iraqi military and local government leaders.

And just as they understood in Iraq that they were supporting Iraqi army and police forces, they understand that if called to respond to a CBRNE incident, they'll support state and local authorities, Cloutier said.

"We understand our role, and the fact that we are not in charge," he said. "We are here to help and to find out, 'What do you need?'

The biggest strength his unit would bring to the mission, Cloutier said, is "4,000 soldiers with a can-do attitude who are here to help."

"I'm pretty excited that we have the utilities to go out and help people," he said. "This is more of the stuff I joined the Army for."

With 10 years in the Army, and a long string of deployments under his belt -- to Kosovo, Afghanistan and three to Iraq -- Johnstone called the CBRNE mission a welcome opportunity to serve his own countrymen.

"We're ecstatic about it," he said of the mission. "This is something new and different. It's about actively saving lives," he said. "Hopefully we never have to get the call to do it. But if we get that call, we are ready."

"No one questions the patriotism of these soldiers. I believe using them is merely a temporary tactic by a President Obama. His true goal is the creation of a 'security force' that is directly under his control and easily deployed within the United States," warns Baker.

"During the Katrina hurricane and flood in New Orleans, the left-wing journalists painted a picture of corrupt and cowardly local police while calling for more federal law enforcement and agency response," he said.

"The liberal-left would love to see federal troops cracking down on American citizens while allowing terrorists, illegal aliens and criminals to rule the streets of our cities and towns," accuses Baker.

Government Cyber Control

Army Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and chief of Central Security Service at Fort Meade, Md., said many issues related to Cyber Command's operations are yet to be determined. Cyber Command is to be subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command.

"The NSA is a civilian spy agency that is suspected of conducting surveillance of American citizens during the Clinton and Bush administrations. Under Clinton the Echelon program was the most far-reaching electronic spy program ever conducted in the United States," warns former intelligence officer and police detective Michael Snopes.

Alexander noted that when Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates created the command last year it was an acknowledgement of the growing threats against the department's computer network systems, the corresponding threat to national security, and the need for unity of command in addressing the problem.

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The general noted that the threat to defense computer systems has grown and will continue to do so. "We've been alarmed by the increase this year," he said, "and it's growing rapidly."

"This command is not about an effort to militarize cyber space," he said. "Rather, it's about safeguarding our military assets."

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However, not everyone is happy about this latest military development coming so close to the transition from the Bush White House to the Obama Administration. Some observers believe this plan is part of a deal between President Obama and the current Secretary of Defense...